Marco Island says goodbye to Lt. Clayton Smith following traffic accident
The stars and stripes waved in the wind from atop the ladder of a red fire truck and only the sound of bagpipes could be heard as police officers from dozens of jurisdictions offered a military salute to fallen Marco Island Police Lt. Clayton B. Smith.
The family of Smith, who died last week following a traffic accident, was escorted inside the local Presbyterian church on this blue-sky Monday morning.
Smith, 58, served with the department for six years, according to MIPD Chief Tracy L. Frazzano.
“The Marco Island Police Department cannot express our appreciation and gratitude enough for the significant support demonstrated by the community and other first responders," Frazzano wrote in a news release sent later in the day.
"Lt. Clayton Smith touched thousands of lives in his 31-year career in both Marco Island and Springfield Township (Ohio)," Frazzano wrote. "His passing is a tremendous loss and we ask that the community continue to keep the Smith family in their thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”
Before coming to Marco Island, Smith retired from Springfield Township Police Department (STPD) in Ohio after 25 years of service.
Chief Robert Browder of STPD has fond memories of his time working alongside Smith.
“He is the best of the best, a cop’s cop,” Browder said. “His thing was mentoring young officers.”
“He trained a lot of officers and everyone of them are the best of the best because of him.”
During his years at Springfield, Smith spent 15 with SWAT, Browder said.
“He was always the first to volunteer to go first through the door,” Browder said. “Everything that he did was for the best of his family, community and fellow cops.”
In 1991, Browder was involved in a car accident, ending up trapped inside a vehicle for almost an hour, and Smith was the first one to arrive at the scene, Browder said.
“He looked at me, had a tear in his eye and held my hand the entire time,” Browder said. “I wish I could have held his hand that night.”
Members of the media were not allowed inside the church, according to MIPD Captain Richard Stoltenborg.
"On this solemn day, please help us respect the Smith family's wishes," signs posted at the church's doors read. "No media, no photography inside the church building."
Smith died following a traffic crash on Wednesday night at the intersection of San Marco Rd. and Heathwood Dr. in Marco Island, according to a Florida Highway Patrol press release.
Smith was off-duty driving a motorcycle at the time of the accident, according to an MIPD news release sent Wednesday.
Dale Lowe, resident of Cape Coral, was driving a 2002 Jeep Cherokee east on San Marco Rd., approaching the intersection of Heathwood Dr., as Smith, driving a 2009 MOTI R50, was traveling west on San Marco Rd., approaching the same intersection at 6:15 p.m., according to the press release.
"As (the motorcycle) was traveling through the intersection, (the Jeep) made a left turn into the path of (the motorcycle).”
"The front of (the motorcycle) collided with the front right of (the Jeep)."
Smith was later pronounced deceased at Lee Memorial Hospital.
This case is currently under investigation.
Omar Rodríguez Ortiz is a community reporter for Naples Daily News and Marco Eagle. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram as @Omar_fromPR, and on Facebook. Support his work by subscribing to Naples Daily News.